Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Discovering Printer Drift.

Discovering Printer Drift

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 30, 2015)

2

When you print a document, you may be surprised to find out that the placement of some text or graphic on the screen isn't exactly where you want it. For instance, you might have a one-inch left margin and you discover that on the printed page the margin isn't precisely at one inch from the edge of the paper.

Before assuming that Word has gone haywire, you'll want to determine if the problem has to do with your printer or not. Printers are mechanical beasts, and as they grab paper and move it through the printer, the paper can "drift" to the left or right (or up or down) relative to the mechanism that places the actual output on the paper. This can cause your margins to appear incorrect or the placement of other items incorrect.

To check out how much drift there is in your printer, try these general steps:

  1. Open a new, blank document.
  2. Use the graphics tools in Word to draw a vertical line down the middle of the page. Make sure the line is as thin as you can get it and that it is exactly in the middle of the page. For instance, if you are using regular letter-size paper, format the line so it is 4.25 inches from the left edge of the paper. Also, make sure that the line extends all the way from the top edge of the paper to the bottom edge (the line should be 11 inches long).
  3. Use the graphics tools to draw a horizontal line across the middle of the page. Make sure the line is as thin as you can get it and that it is exactly in the middle of the page. For instance, if you are using regular letter-size paper, format the line so it is 5.5 inches from the top edge of the paper. Also, make sure that the line extends all the way from the left edge of the paper to the right edge (the line should be 8.5 inches wide).
  4. At the top of the page type the words "Top Left." These words allow you to identify the orientation of the printed page.
  5. Print a few copies of your document.
  6. Now, precisely fold each piece of paper in half both vertically and horizontally. Don't fold on the printed lines; make sure you fold the paper in half based on the edges of the paper.
  7. Unfold the paper and compare the printed lines to the folds. If your printer is very, very good, the lines should be right on the folds. Chances are, however, that the lines won't be on the folds; they will be some distance from the folds. You can measure the distances and this gives you an idea of how much drift there is in your printer. These measurements can then be used to adjust margins and placement of items so that what you get on the printout is closer to what you expect.

You should note that every printer is different, and therefore every printer will have different amounts of drift. The above steps will tell you the drift in the single printer on which you perform the steps; it won't necessarily tell you the drift in a different printer, even if the other printer is the same model.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7332) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Discovering Printer Drift.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Deleting Table Columns with Track Changes Turned On

If you are editing a document with Track Changes turned on, Word won't let you delete a column in a table and have it marked ...

Discover More

Printing without Opening

Want to print one ore more workbooks without the need of actually opening the file? It's easy to do when you rely on Windows ...

Discover More

Deleting All Headers and Footers

Headers and footers add a finishing touch to documents, but sometimes they can be bothersome. You may need to remove them all ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More WordTips (menu)

Printing Document Properties

Word maintains quite a bit of information about a document in a special collection of items called "properties." You can ...

Discover More

Printing Copy Numbers

Copy 1, Copy 2, Copy 3... Do you want to mark your printouts so that they are numbered? Here's how you can do it.

Discover More

Printing and Exiting Word in a Macro

When you print a document, Word remains busy in the background until the printing is done. If you try to end the program ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 9 + 4?

2015-05-30 07:59:48

Brother Jeremy, CSJW

Unfortunately, most home and office quality duplex printers, such as the Brother HL-5340D, which we use here at the monastery, simply are not capable of accurately aligning pages for duplex. This is do to their design. The printer does not fully eject a sheet of paper before "pulling it" back through the printer for the reverse side.

We have tried setting different margins for odd and even pages, but the best results comes from printing simplex rather than duplex.


2015-05-30 06:55:00

George Bell

I'd like to see similar advice for duplex printing. For example, set up a document of 2 pages, margins equal all round, and a border all round. Now print duplex. Are the borders exactly back to back, and if not, how does one adjust them to be so>


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.